Ask Mike: Kevin Kopps, Hog Football practice updates, Eric Musselman contract talk and more

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Another week full of questions from Arkansas fans about the Razorbacks and our Mike Irwin has all your answers in his weekly “Ask Mike” segment.

Below are your questions and Mike’s answers about the Hogs.

Q. Our first question is from PorkSoda who says: Assuming J-Will, Devo, and Notae start next year, who do you see filling the other 2 starting positions?

A. With Eric Musselman, the way he wheels and deals in the off season, I’m not assuming anything about who will start. It could well be that Notae comes off the bench again. I think Williams will start at one of the forward spots. Kamani Johnson, the transfer from Arkansas-Little Rock who sat out this past season, is a good bet to take Justin Smith’s role as a physical power forward. Devo will start at one of the guard spots, I think. Au’ Diese Toney, the 6-6 transfer from Pitt, is also a good bet to start. The starting point guard could be Notae. KK Robinson, who is almost recovered from the ankle injury that knocked him out in January, should be back. He’s a point guard. However it looks like that Xavier Pinson, the Missouri point guard who scored 46 points in two games against Arkansas this last season, might transfer to Arkansas. If that happens he’s the starter. There’s a Miami point guard transfer who is also considering Arkansas. He was injured last year but averaged 15 points per game two years ago. One of those two is likely coming and would be the starting point guard.

As far as I’m concerned, next year’s starting line up is fluid.

Q. Slobberslob says: I thought Mateo Soli had an incredibly promising freshman season, then really didn’t see as much of him this year. Is he okay?

A. Soli had a hand injury last year. Played with a big wrap on it. It’s hard to play your best like that. This spring he’s fine physically as far as I know but we don’t have an updated depth chart. There is going to be an added emphasis this season on rotating in more players this season because the pass rush is going to be a greater part of the defense. Barry Odom wants fresh players on the field. So Soli will play.

Q. robs4516 asks: How do you think the Offensive Line is looking so far? How much of a factor will the added weight/bulk/muscle be?

A. They looked good in the first scrimmage. They pushed the D-Line around some. There was a much better effort from the D-line last Saturday. The running game looks promising except that the running backs fumbled too much in the second scrimmage. The pass blocking was better in the first scrimmage. But that probably wasn’t an O-line problem. Right now it looks like the quarterbacks are taking too long to spot the receivers. You can only pass block for so long.

One of their best Offensive linemen is the sophomore transfer, Ty’Kieast Crawford. He’s a beast but has missed both scrimmages. It appears that he’s got some sort of a minor injury. Under Sam Pittman, I promise you, the O-Line will continue to get better.

Q. Jumpty wants to know: Why do you think Desi Sills is so upset at the current coaching staff and fan base? He has made several comments expressing his frustration including laughing at a post made by The Hog Pod where Muss stated Desi would always be family.

A. JD Notae, the sixth man of the year in the SEC, took away a lot of his playing time. When Sills did get on the floor he was inconsistent. Usually in a situation like that a player will just quietly transfer but Sills is an emotional guy and by all accounts he is going away mad. Expressing anger toward Musselman is not going to any traction in a year where the team reached the elite eight for the first time since 1995.

It will be interesting to see where Sills lands and how he plays next year. Hopefully he’ll find a situation like Justin Smith and Jalen Tate found. Both said coming to Arkansas and playing under Coach Muss was the best decision they ever made.

Get used to this kind of stuff. Because of the portal, the roster is going to change a lot year to year, especially under Muss. That’s what he does. He works the portal.

Q. The_Bionic_Pig asks: Is their a possibility of Arkansas resuming it’s basketball series with Memphis after a 18 year hiatus or will the Memphis AD still demand a Football game also.

A. Nolan loved recruiting Memphis and had great success with it but Arkansas high school and AAU basketball is way beyond what it was 20 years ago and as we’ve already seen Muss is all over top in-state players. Recruiting Memphis is not the priority it was back then. Also, as far as scheduling, other Arkansas teams are becoming a thing and they will come to Bud Walton without demanding a return game. I’m not saying the Memphis series won’t resurface at some point but Muss has a lot of options when it comes to scheduling.

Q. Superhog1959 says: I have 3 areas of concerns with the upcoming football season. 1. QB play. 2. Defensive line play and depth. 3. Special teams. What have you seen so far and what do you think about these areas?

A. No question quarterback play is the biggest concern of the spring. K.J. Jefferson needs to step up over the next two weeks. His passing numbers from Saturday were a little over 50% and less than a hundred yards. He did throw one beautiful deep ball to Mike Woods. A 75 yard touchdown that was call back due to an ineligible receiver down field.

Lucas Coley is showing a lot of promise but he’s 17 years old. One of those early enrollment transfers. I could see him being a factor this fall as he continues to develop.

The D-line really stepped up on Saturday. There’s going to be more depth there this fall.

Special teams, It’s hard to tell about kickoff and punt returns because there’s no tackling. The punting is so so. Nothing that stands out. Their five-star freshmen field goal kicker needs some time. He’ll be fine I think. He’s got a strong leg, but was inaccurate on Saturday.

Matthew Phillips, who has been a punter had a really good day kicking field goals. He was strong and accurate kicking into a stiff wind.

Vito Calvaruso looked really good on the kickoffs.

Q. Eddy Lynn asks: What is the biggest surprise of the baseball season so far?

A. No question, Kevin Kopps. In three previous seasons he’s never had better than a 3 plus ERA. This year he’s their best pitcher period. He’s 4-0 in 13 appearances out of the bullpen. his ERA is .82. He’s given up just 12 hits in 22 innings of work with, get this, 40 strikeouts.

He pitched in all three of the Auburn games. Faced 17 batters. Strikeout 11. Gave up 2 hits with no runs scored.

He had Tommy John surgery two years ago. The best explanation for the transformation is that his arm is fully healed. If he keeps this up he’s going to make some money in pro baseball.

Q. Arkansas RedNeck says: Arkansas has now dropped a game in each of the last two weekends to the bottom two teams in the SEC West. Is that a cause for concern?

A. If they had lost those two series. But they came back and won both remaining games after losing on Friday which is not easy. That is this team’s M.O. Coming from behind. They are tied for the lead in the SEC west at 7-2. They got a sweep from a top 5 team two weekends ago. They are in good shape but every weekend is going to be a gut check in this conference. Alabama and Auburn are not pushover teams. Both can hit and Auburn hits for power. They’ve each got decent pitching. It’s no disgrace to lose a game to either of them.

Q. John Michael says: The baseball team is no longer number one. What is your biggest concern with them?

A. They’re still number one in the Baseball America poll. Number two in some others. They are tied for the lead in the West at 7-2. Second overall in the SEC behind Vanderbilt. They are 6-0 vs the top 10, 10-2 against top 25. That’s the best in college baseball but Arkansas is number 2 in RPI behind Villanova which makes no sense whatsoever. Villanova’s record doesn’t even compare to Arkansas.

The biggest series of the season is coming up this weekend. Arkansas at Ole Miss. A battle for first in the West. Number one or two vs. number three.

What’s my biggest concern? It’s a tossup between hitting and starting pitching. Arkansas is hitting .280 as a team. Ole Miss, .279. But the Hogs have hit 46 home runs to 32 for the Rebels. That looks good but the issue for the Hogs is inconsistency. Arkansas will explode in one game and struggle at the plate in another.

The ERA of Arkansas’ three starters from last weekend is 3.6. It looks like Payton Pallette will replace Zebulon Vermillion with the Saturday start. Ole Miss’ likely starters have an ERA of 3.0.

Q. PatBoat asks: Outside of Jerry Jones who has been the most successful athlete business wise and what was the business?

A. I’m no business expert but I’ll take a stab at it. Jerry’s teammate on the ’65 national championship team, Jim Lindsey, has done really well. His real estate and property management business was worth a half a billion dollars a few years ago. I haven’t seen any recent numbers. How Lindsey got started is an interesting story. He took his NFL bonus money in 1966 and bought 160 acres of property for sale between Fayetteville and Springdale on the west side of 71 business because he knew it was a great deal. He sat on that property until 1971 and sold it to a company that wanted to build the current mall. He took that money and started buying up property all over Fayetteville and Springdale at a time when the population was starting to explode. He once said that you could look at a map of the area, throw a dart at it, buy that land and make a killing on it a year or two later. He started a real estate company in ’73. Got into building apartments in 1980 using his own construction company. That expand out of state. He got into property management. It’s an American success story and there is no bigger fan of Razorback Athletics than Jim Lindsey.

Q. Atlanta Porker says: I recently saw a highlight video from the 1971 AR vs TX game that showed the impressive arm of Joe Ferguson. In your years of covering the Hogs which QBs exhibited the strongest arms?

A. I saw that game in a barracks at Ft. Benning, Georgia. It was played in the rain at War Memorial Stadium and you’re right, Joe could flat throw the football. That’s why he was in the NFL for almost two decades.

Other Arkansas quarterbacks that had strong arms? Feleipe Franks ranks up there. He threw some bombs last year. Clint Stoerner could really fling it and Matt Jones was underrated as a passing quarterback. He had a slight shoulder separation that affected his accuracy at times but he had a strong arm. Brad Taylor had a strong arm and his junior year Quinn Grovey surprised me with some deep balls he threw.

Q. Viva La Ham wants to know: Any idea on when we hear about coach Muss’s extension, raise, and hopefully huge buyout?

A. There’s been no word. My guess is there’s some horse trading going on between his agent and Hunter Yurachek. They’ll get there.

Q. Lanny says: Chris Beard was on Tech Tech’s staff under Bobby Knight and said he was home to stay when he got hired as their head coach. Now he’s gone to Texas. Muss says he loves it here. Are there any concerns he will surprise us and take off ?

A. What a great question. When I talked to Hunter Yurachek right after Musselman was hired I asked him about Beard because there were some boosters who were pushing Beard for the Arkansas job because of his time coaching at Little Rock and because Beard had just taken Texas Tech to the NCAA Tournament championship game. He said he wanted a coach who didn’t just want a job but specifically wanted the Arkansas job. He said Musselman was that coach.

You are right, Beard did say he had the job he wanted. I have a lot of friends in the Lubbock area and they were convinced that he was going to coach there the rest of his career. Those fans out there were crazy about Beard. The business community embraced him. Catered to him. So when he not only left but left for Texas, I can tell you they were in shock. Now they’re mad. There’s a lot of talk that when he brings Texas back into Lubbock next season there’s going to be hell to pay. Those people hate the University of Texas the way Hog fans used to back into the SWC days.

I point all of this out to say that I think Yurachek really did get a guy that wants to stay. I think his instincts are really good. And look at what Hog fans have. Sam Pittman, Eric Musselman and Dave Van Horn. They’ not going to take off for LSU or Ole Miss. Kentucky or whatever. I don’t think Hog fans are going to wake up to any nasty surprises.

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